On This Date in Legal History

On March 16, 1931, Aldridge v. United States was argued before the United States Supreme Court. The case involved a black criminal defendant, Alfred Scott Aldridge, who was charged with murdering a white police officer. At Aldridge’s trial, his attorney asked the judge if he could question prospective jurors about any racial prejudices; however, his request was denied. Aldridge was convicted and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court agreed to review the judge’s decision, and on April 20, 1931, the Court ordered a new trial. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, speaking for the majority of the Court, explained– “The argument is advanced on behalf of the Government that it would be detrimental to the administration of the law in the courts of the United States to allow questions to jurors as to racial or religious prejudices. We think that it would be far more injurious to permit it to be thought that persons entertaining a disqualifying prejudice were allowed to serve as jurors and that inquiries designed to elicit the fact of disqualification were barred. No surer way could be devised to bring the processes of justice into disrepute.” Notably, Justice McReynolds, a Southerner, was the lone dissenter. You can read the entire decision at https://goo.gl/HbQ56g, and an enlightening piece about Justice McReynolds at https://goo.gl/VxKeWI.

James_Clark_McReynolds_portrait

Associate Justice James Clark McReynolds

About Tina Nelson
Tina Nelson

Tina Nelson is an attorney and mom. She created the LAWSUIT™ board game to teach her three children about the law. The game was an instant success. Copyrights and a patent were obtained, and Professional Games, Inc. was born. Professional Games, Inc. created this blog to educate and keep its friends and customers regularly updated about our American legal system.
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